quashing of dissent in Hong Kong, from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, though a Saudi statement did not mention Xinjiang.

China’s most striking alignment is with Russia, where Mr. Putin has long complained about American hegemony and its use — abuse, in his view — of the global financial system as an instrument of foreign policy.

The Russian foreign minister arrived in China last Monday railing about American sanctions and saying the world needed to reduce its reliance on the U.S. dollar.

China and Russia have drawn closer especially since Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was met with international outrage and Western penalties. While the possibility of a formal alliance remains remote, the countries’ diplomatic and economic ties have deepened in common cause against the United States. So have strategic ties. The People’s Liberation Army and the Russian military now routinely hold exercises together and have twice conducted joint air patrols along Japan’s coast, most recently in December.

The two countries announced this month that they would build a research station on the moon together, setting the stage for competing space programs, one led by China and the other by the United States.

“The latest steps and gestures by the Biden administration, seen as hostile and insulting by the Russian and Chinese leaders, have predictably pushed Moscow and Beijing even deeper into a mutual embrace,” said Artyom Lukin, a professor of international studies at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia.

report on human rights in the United States on Wednesday, using as an epigraph George Floyd’s plea to the police, “I can’t breathe.”

“The United States should lower the tone of democracy and human rights and talk more about cooperation in global affairs,” Yuan Peng, president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a government think tank, wrote the same day.

From that perspective, Mr. Xi’s outreach to North Korea and Mr. Wang’s visit to Iran could signal China’s interest in working with the United States to resolve disputes over those two countries’ nuclear programs.

Mr. Biden’s administration may be open to that. After the Alaska meetings, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned both as potential areas where “our interests intersect” with China’s.

sealed trade and investment agreements, including one with the European Union, hoping to box out Mr. Biden.

It didn’t work. The first results of Mr. Biden’s strategy emerged last week, when the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union jointly announced sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang. China’s condemnation was swift.

“The era when it was possible to make up a story and concoct lies to wantonly meddle in Chinese domestic affairs is past and will not come back,” Mr. Wang said.

China retaliated with sanctions of its own against elected officials and scholars in the European Union and Britain. Similar penalties followed Saturday on Canadians and Americans, including top officials at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body that held a hearing this month on forced labor in Xinjiang. All affected will be barred from traveling to China or conducting business with Chinese companies or individuals.

Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels, said China’s sanctions on Europeans were an overreaction that would drive officials into an anti-China camp.

They could also jeopardize China’s investment deal with the European Union, as many of those penalized are members of the European Parliament, whose approval is required. So could new campaigns by Chinese consumers against major Western brands like H & M and Nike.

Until now, many European Union nations have not wanted to explicitly choose sides, eschewing the kind of bipolar ideological divisions seen during the Cold War, in part because of deepening economic ties with China.

With each new twist in relations, however, clearer camps are emerging. “The Chinese mirror all the time,” Ms. Fallon said. “They always accuse people of Cold War thinking because I think that’s really, deep down, how they think.”

Chris Buckley contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.

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Bitter Alaska Meeting Complicates Already Shaky U.S.-China Ties

ANCHORAGE, Alaska—High-level talks between the Biden administration and Beijing that veered into acrimony put the U.S.-China rivalry in sharp relief, complicating efforts by the two powers to erect guardrails and keep tensions from spiraling further.

The two-day meetings, which ended Friday, covered an array of issues that over the past year sent U.S.-China relations to their most unsteady point in decades: China’s clampdown on Hong Kong, repression of Muslims in Xinjiang and aggressive behavior with its neighbors. The two sides also explored some areas of hoped-for common ground.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters afterward that the governments “are fundamentally at odds” on issues such as Hong Kong and cyberattacks, though interests intersect on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and climate change.

“We were clear-eyed coming in, we’re clear-eyed coming out, and we will go back to Washington to take stock of where we are,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Yang Jiechi, China’s senior-most foreign-policy official, also noted “important disagreements” remained, and in remarks to Chinese state media suggested Beijing wouldn’t back down. “China will unswervingly defend its national sovereignty, security and development interests. China’s development and strengthening is unstoppable,” said Mr. Yang.

The Chinese delegation led by top foreign policy officials Yang Jiechi, second from left, and Wang Yi, second from right, leaving the room after the conclusion of talks with U.S. officials on Friday.

Photo: frederic j. brown/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The talks were the first under the Biden administration and tested its strategy to compartmentalize the countries’ relationship into what Mr. Blinken said are competitive, collaborative and adversarial components.

To that end, in the week ahead of the talks, the Biden administration rallied support among allies in Asia and imposed sanctions on senior Chinese legislators—moves that in part sparked Beijing’s anger as the talks opened Thursday.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Blinken launched into China’s cyberattacks, its threats against Taiwan and others, and its clampdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong as “threatening the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”

Mr. Yang, in turn, criticized the U.S. for undermining global stability by using force around the world, and he said the U.S. doesn’t serve as a model to others. He listed the U.S.’s problems with racism, mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement, and declining domestic confidence in U.S. democracy.

Although U.S. officials played down the public sparring, the divisiveness, on display in front of reporters, exposed a deepening distrust between the two governments that is likely to make cooperation more difficult.

“Anyone who was hoping there would be a significant de-escalation—largely people in the business community—can see that’s not going to be possible, at least in the near term,” said Allison Sherlock, a China analyst at the consultancy Eurasia Group.

On Friday in their last meeting, Messrs. Blinken and Sullivan and Mr. Yang and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi  gathered with a smaller group of aides to try to set up a way to manage difficulties ahead, officials said.

Foreign-policy specialists said the acrimony shows shifting perceptions that each has about the balance of power between the two nations, increasing the likelihood of miscalculation and conflicts over hot spots like control of critical technologies and China’s claims against Taiwan and Japan and in the South China Sea.

A new target is the U.S. electric-vehicle maker Tesla Inc. China’s government is restricting use of Tesla vehicles by members of the Chinese military and employees in sensitive posts in government and business, citing national-security concerns over data collected by the cars,  according to people familiar with the effort.

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Both governments face pressing domestic issues, giving them reason to try to limit costly confrontation. President Biden has placed priority on reining in the pandemic and shoring up the recovery in the Covid-19-battered economy. In dealing with China, administration officials said it will band together with allies to give the U.S. what the White House on Thursday called “a place of strength.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also trying to bolster the Chinese economy, as he prepares for a pivotal period in his control over the Communist Party. He is expected to seek a third term as party leader next year and can ill afford a full-blown crisis with the U.S. in the run-up.

Still, he and other officials have in recent months played up perceptions that “the East is rising and the West is declining,” citing the Communist Party’s perceived superiority in governance.

Mr. Yang, a member of the party’s ruling body, channeled that sentiment in responding to Mr. Blinken on Thursday. “The United States  does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength,” Mr. Yang said. He accused the U.S. of being condescending and waved his finger at Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan.

Mr. Yang’s remarks drew plaudits in China, where they were circulated on social and mainstream media.

People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, posted a warning to the U.S. on several of its social-media accounts in English and Chinese, to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” and, echoing Mr. Yang, said: “The U.S. is not qualified to talk to China  in such a condescending way.”

U.S. officials accused Mr. Yang of grandstanding for a domestic audience and said Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan continued to engage their Chinese interlocutors on substance.

“We will still have business to conduct,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, told reporters. “America’s approach will be undergirded by confidence in our dealing with Beijing.”

Still, the thrust of Mr. Yang’s remarks presages difficult dealings ahead, said Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, who advised the Trump administration on China.

“The tone seems to be different. Now China is not just equal to us, they are superior,” said Mr. Pillsbury. He said the U.S. needs to find more leverage over China.

A key part of the Biden strategy to compete with Beijing—working with U.S. allies—also angers Beijing, which sees the alliances as central to U.S.’s effort to constrain China’s ascent and limit its influence. Beijing has over the past year escalated tensions with U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia and other U.S. partners such as Taiwan and India, whose troops clashed with Chinese forces along their Himalayan border.

“China sees itself in an increasingly hostile global environment,” said Eurasia Group’s  Ms. Sherlock. From that perspective, she said, Mr. Yang’s outburst Thursday served to make Beijing’s frustrations public. “It does represent a sharpening attitude for dealing with the U.S.,” she said.

Write to William Mauldin at william.mauldin@wsj.com

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China’s Sharp Words in Alaska Signal its More Confident Posture

The extraordinary rancor aired by China’s top diplomats in Alaska was a manifestation of a newly combative and unapologetic China, one increasingly unbowed by diplomatic pressure from American presidential administrations.

Just as American views on China have shifted after years of encouraging the country’s economic integration, so have Beijing’s perceptions of the United States and the privileged place in the world that it has long held. The Americans, in their view, no longer have an overwhelming reservoir of global influence, nor the power to wield it against China.

That has made China more confident than it once was in pursuing its aims openly and unabashedly — from human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang to the territorial disputes with India and Japan and others in South China Sea to, most contentiously of all, the fate of Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own.

While China still faces enormous challenges at home and around the world, its leaders now act as if history were on their side.

it fought Indian troops last year and menaced ships from several countries, including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam.

new report on the issue, said on Thursday.

Meetings between the Chinese and the Americans have been testy before, but the balance of power between the two countries has changed.

For decades, China approached American governments from positions of weakness, economically and militarily. That forced it at times to accede to American demands, however grudgingly, whether it was to release detained human-rights advocates or to accept Washington’s conditions for joining the World Trade Organization.

China today feels far more assured in its ability to challenge the United States and push for its own vision of international cooperation. It is a confidence embraced by China’s leader since 2012, Xi Jinping, who has used the phrase, “the East is rising, and the West is declining.”

largely tamed at home, and the internal political divisions roiling the United States. Mr. Yang singled both out in his remarks on Thursday.

“The challenges facing the United States in human rights are deep-seated,” Mr. Yang said, citing the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality. “It’s important that we manage our respective affairs well instead of deflecting the blame on somebody else in this world.”

intensifying punitive measures imposed by the Trump and, now, Biden administrations.

In the latest round, the State Department announced this week that it would impose sanctions on 24 Chinese officials for their role in eroding Hong Kong’s electoral system. The timing of the move, just as the Chinese were preparing to depart for Alaska, contributed to the acrimony.

“This is not supposed to be the way one welcomes his guests,” China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said in remarks in Alaska that were equally pointed as Mr. Yang’s.

impervious to outrage over its actions, making the task all the more challenging.

new national security law to restrict dissent in Hong Kong did nothing to halt a new law this year dismantling the territory’s electoral system.

China also chose Friday to begin its trials of two Canadians who were arrested more than two years ago and charged with espionage in what was widely seen as retaliation for the American effort to extradite a senior executive from Huawei, the telecommunications giant, for fraud involving sales to Iran.

It was striking that Mr. Yang, a veteran diplomat and a member of the ruling Politburo of the Communist Party of China, used his remarks to say that neither the United States nor the West broadly had a monopoly on international public opinion.

That is a view reflected in China’s successful efforts to use international forums like the United Nations Human Rights Council to counter condemnation over policies like the mass detention and re-education programs in Xinjiang, the predominately Muslim region in western China.

“I don’t think the overwhelming majority of countries in the world would recognize that the universal values advocated by the United States or that the opinion of the United States could represent international public opinion,” Mr. Yang said. “And those countries would not recognize that the rules made by a small number of people would serve as the basis for the international order.”

wrote approvingly under a video of Mr. Yang’s remarks.

While American officials said the temperature of the meetings in Alaska went down behind closed doors, few officials or experts on either side are hopeful of a significant improvement in relations. The talks are scheduled to continue for another round on Friday.

“On the whole, this negotiation is only for the two sides to put all the cards on the table, for the two sides to recognize how big and deep each other’s differences are,” said Wu Qiang, an independent political analyst in Beijing, “But in fact, it will not help to bring about any reconciliation or any mitigation.”

Chris Buckley in Sydney and Lara Jakes in Anchorage contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.

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In First Talks, Dueling Accusations Set Testy Tone for U.S.-China Diplomacy

ANCHORAGE — Even before the Biden administration’s first face-to-face meeting with senior Chinese diplomats on Thursday, American officials predicted the discussions would not go well. They were right: The traditional few minutes of opening greetings and remarks dissolved into more than an hour of very public verbal jousting, confirming the expected confrontational tone between the geopolitical rivals.

U.S. officials said the two days of talks would continue, but immediately accused the Chinese delegation of violating the format for the sensitive discussions that had sought to find some common ground amid the many conflict points between them.

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, accused the United States of taking a “condescending” approach to the talks and said the American delegation had no right to accuse Beijing of human rights abuses or give lectures on the merits of democracy.

At one point, he said the United States would do well to repair its own “deep seated” problems, specifically pointing to the Black Lives Matter movement against American racism. At another, after it looked as if the opening remarks had concluded and journalists were initially told to leave the room to let the deeper discussions begin, Mr. Yang accused the United States of being inconsistent in its championing of a free press.

new economic sanctions that were issued against 24 Chinese officials on the eve of the talks. “This is not supposed to be the way one should welcome his guests,” said the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi.

The sanctions punished Chinese officials whom the Biden administration said had undermined democracy in Hong Kong by rewriting the territory’s election laws and pushing the changes through its pliant Communist Party-controlled legislature. Biden administration officials had earlier said the sanctions were not deliberately timed to affect the talks in Anchorage.

But they clearly offended the Chinese diplomats, who seized on them as proof that the diplomatic overture was intended not to set ground rules for a bilateral understanding of each capital’s priorities, but to give the United States a home-turf platform for embarrassing Beijing.

The tit-for-tat, which a senior U.S. official described as “grandstanding” by the Chinese for their domestic audience, left little doubt that not much would be achieved from the diplomatic discussions. However, the official said later, the discussion cooled down after journalists left the room, and yielded a substantive conversation that lasted far longer than initially planned.

After an often-conflicting strategy for dealing with China over the past four years — which pit President Donald J. Trump’s desire for a trade deal against punishing Beijing for its rampant abuses of minority Uyghurs, military aggressions in regional waters and refusal to immediately address the coronavirus outbreak — the Biden administration has sought to take a new approach.

The new policy toward China is one based largely on competition — economic and diplomatic — but it is also prepared to alternately cooperate or confront Beijing when necessary. The talks in Anchorage were meant to set a baseline for that approach.

It is now unclear how much cooperation between the two nations will be possible, although that will be necessary to achieve a host of shared goals, including limiting Iran’s nuclear program and North Korea’s weapons systems.

Senior Biden administration officials had earlier joked that hopes of making much progress in the talks were so low that it would be more efficient for both sides to simply fax over their respective talking points.

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